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Know the West

Intrepid explorer with a cause

  Many recent college graduates shoulder their backpacks for a genteel trip to Europe. Not Soren Jespersen. The Northern Arizona University alum hoisted his for a five-month 2,200-mile solo trek around the Four Corners region to raise money for the Center for Humanitarian Outreach and Intercultural Exchange or CHOICE. The Utah-based group, directed by Soren's dad, fights global poverty by building schools and health clinics in places such as rural Mexico, Bolivia and Nepal.

Though his cause is international, it's the Four Corners area that captures Soren's imagination. "I love the West, specifically the Southwest. It's changing so fast, being devoured and spit out so often that I feel like I don't have the time to spend away from it."

Averaging 15-25 miles daily, Soren covered roughly 290 miles between April 26 and May 12, using customized topography maps, a GPS device and advice from locals. Friends and family supply him with food he dried himself; he travels lightly, carrying a tarp, a hand-tailored sleeping bag and a daily journal. Already the 23-year-old says he's spotted a slew of animals such as pronghorn antelope.

Soren admits he has a romantic notion about living the solitary, rugged life of an explorer and has dedicated the trip to Everett Ruess, another young wanderer who disappeared in the region in 1934. "Lots of people are afraid to be alone," he muses.

Old-fashioned romanticism notwithstanding, Soren has a modern eye for fund raising. To receive periodic updates on his progress, donate to CHOICE by calling 800/381-1065.